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Custom program developed for Health Science leaders

Health Sciences Leadership Series

A program designed to improve the leadership capabilities and communication skills of Health Sciences faculty members.

Visit the Faculty of Health Sciences website to register.

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Health Sciences faculty members spend years training for their roles as educators, researchers and scholars. In many cases, though, there aren'™t the same opportunities to develop specific skills required for their administrative and managerial duties.

The Office of Faculty Development in the Faculty of Health Sciences aims to change that by collaborating with the Human Resources Department on a new management development program. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will launch this September with the first cohort of 30 participants completing six full-day sessions throughout 2014-15.

"This program is modelled after one that myself and a number of other faculty had the opportunity to take several years ago," says Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education, Faculty of Health Sciences. "In retrospect, the content has proven to be highly relevant and practical. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development."

Human Resources designed the program specifically for Health Sciences faculty members. The material will cover challenges, situations and conflicts they will encounter in their day-to-day work. Dr. Sanfilippo says participants will gain a deeper understanding of their leadership capabilities, expand their communication skills, enhance their project management skills, and improve their ability to build relationships both within and outside their department.

The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development.

Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences.

With the Health Sciences Leadership Series, Queen's Human Resources Department continues to expand its leadership development programming. The department has offered a similar program for non-academic managers since 2009.

"œWe are excited to partner with the Faculty of Health Sciences to extend this valuable leadership training to their faculty members," says Al Orth, Associate Vice-Principal, Human Resources. "We are hopeful that the positive outcomes of this series will result in opportunities to work with other faculties on similar programs in the future."

The series has the added benefit of meeting the accreditation criteria for two professional organizations. It is an accredited group learning activity for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The program also meets the accreditation criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Online registration is now open with the first session slated to take place Sept. 16. More information is available on the Faculty of Health Sciences website or by contacting Shannon Hill, Learning Development Specialist, Human Resources, at ext. 74175.

Queen’s community remembers Pallavi Nadkarni

The Queen’s community is remembering Pallavi Nadkarni, a professor, educator and researcher in the Department of Psychiatry, who died on Sept. 20. She was 45.

Pallavi NadkarniDr. Nadkarni arrived at Queen’s in 2011 after completing her education at the University of  Mumbai and the University of Leeds, followed by recognition as a specialist by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the United Kingdom. She was recognized as a beloved and knowledgeable teacher, colleague, and friend.

“While working together in the Consultation-Liaison team at Kingston General Hospital, I witnessed first-hand her commitment to care, her strong advocacy for mental health support across medical and surgical wards and her thorough approach to education” says Claudio Soares, Head of the Department of Psychiatry. “I also remember her inspiring enthusiasm for education, always encouraging her trainees and celebrating every single achievement they had – from a publication in a prestigious journal to a casual PowerPoint presentation that was well put together, well-delivered. She always made them feel special.”

More recently, Dr. Nadkarni had expanded her scope of practice beyond KHSC and engaged in care for those suffering in the community, working with most vulnerable patients/clients at the AMHS-KFLA; her most recent colleagues and co-workers had the opportunity to see her in action, exhibiting the same dedication and passionate advocacy. She was determined to remain clinically active, working tirelessly despite her recent illness and the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. And so, she did.

Queen’s Community and the Department of Psychiatry will celebrate her life on Oct. 15 through a virtual event, when colleagues and friends will have the opportunity to share stories and memories of Dr. Nadkarni. Also, an announcement will be made to honor her contributions to Queen’s and the community for the generations to come.

Health researchers receive funding from CIHR

Faculty of Health Sciences researchers receive funding from CIHR
Researchers receiving funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) include, clockwise from top left: Nader Ghasemlou; Annette Hay; Mohammed Auais; Charles Graham; Andrew Craig; and Lynne-Marie Postovit.

Seven members of the Faculty of Health Sciences have been awarded with a total of $5.76 million in funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Canada’s federal agency for funding health research. The CIHR Project Grants are designed to support researchers at any career stage build and conduct health-related research and knowledge translation projects. All seven grants have been awarded to successful applicants of the CIHR Spring 2020 Project Grant competition, the results of which can be viewed at the CIHR’s website

The successful researchers are: Mohammed Auais, Andrew Craig, Nader Ghasemlou, Charles Graham, Annette Hay, Martin Paré, and Lynne-Marie Postovit.  

Dr. Auais is a registered physical therapist and assistant professor with the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. His research is focused on improving health outcomes for community-dwelling older adults who have suffered from hip fractures. As the number of hip fractures continues to grow, post-hip fracture care shifts from hospitals to community health services. Dr. Auais has been funded to test a novel rehabilitation program called Stronger at Home in a six-year clinical trial. The new program consists of a user-friendly patient toolkit and a new model of care that includes personalized, at-home physiotherapy, and evaluation of its impact and cost-effectiveness up to 12 months after discharge from the hospital.  

Dr. Craig is associate head research in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and a principal investigator at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute. His funded research program aims to improve responses of ovarian cancer to both chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canadian women, and advances in ovarian cancer therapies are needed. Dr. Craig’s research will use advanced genetic and pharmacological tools to identify new combinations of therapies that improve therapy responses in ovarian cancer patients and identify fundamental mechanisms of tumour biology.  

Dr. Ghasemlou is an assistant professor in the departments of Anesthesiology and Biomedical & Molecular Sciences, and director of Queen’s Translational Research in Pain. His research is focused on better understanding neuro-immune interactions in post-operative pain. His recent work has found that immune cells in the skin produce specific signaling mediators that activate sensory neurons to cause pain. Additionally, he has determined that by blocking the receptors of these proteins, pain can be substantially reduced. Dr. Ghasemlou’s proposal will examine how these cells communicate with pain-sensing neurons, and to how this can be used to prevent and treat pain.  

Dr. Graham is a professor with the Department of Biomedical & Molecular Sciences. His research is focused on the role of innate immune memory in the response to immunotherapy of bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, and the immunotherapy used to treat bladder cancer involves the administration of bacteria, which cause the patients’ immune system to fight the cancer cells. Unfortunately, up to half of patients do not respond fully and the cancer returns. Dr. Graham and his team of co-investigators are conducting research that aims to better understand how this immunotherapy works and why some patients don’t respond well. This work would lead to the development of new bladder cancer treatment methods. 

Dr. Hay is a hematologist and associate professor with the Department of Medicine, and a senior investigator with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. Dr. Hay is studying the treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), an incurable blood malignancy, and aims to compare the effectiveness of two Ibrutinib dose strategies. Ibrutinib, while used to treat CLL, often results in negative consequences such as major bleeding and heart rhythm abnormalities. Recent work on dose reduction strategies confirmed that at lower doses these consequences are diminished, while the activity of ibrutinib can be fully maintained. This project will evaluate a lower dose (3-2-1 Strategy) against full dose of Ibrutinib, with the goal of reducing patients’ side effects and treatment costs.  

Dr. Paré is a professor with the Department of Biomedical & Molecular Sciences. His research aims to gain a comprehensive understanding of the effects of drugs used in mental disorders to modify cognitive function. Dr. Paré’s project will evaluate task performance and memory to investigate how drugs used in the treatment of ADHD can impact their function. Findings from this study will help to better understand the neural mechanisms that are dysfunctional in mental disorders and become impaired in aging.  

Dr. Postovit is a professor and head of the Department of Biomedical & Molecular Sciences. Her research interests involve improving treatment options for cancers whose observable characteristics commonly revert to more generalized conditions or structures. These cancers no longer look like the tissue from which they arise, but rather look more like tissue in an embryo, and as a result have a very poor prognosis. Dr. Postovit’s CIHR-funded study will determine the extent to which this phenomenon is promoted by the loss of components of the SWI/SNF protein complex. In addition, it will determine how to target and kill cancers which undergo this process.

The obesity paradox: Obese patients fare better than others after heart surgery

The Conversation: For patients recovering from heart surgery, being overweight or moderately obese appears to be an advantage over being underweight or even having a normal BMI.
Patients who were overweight and obese had lower mortality rates following cardiac surgery than those with BMIs in the normal or underweight range. (Shutterstock)


The World Health Organization has declared obesity to be a global epidemic that “threatens to overwhelm both developed and developing countries.” However, is obesity always bad when it comes to health?

Certainly, obesity is a significant risk factor for the development of many chronic conditions, including heart disease. However, research has shown that in a number of situations, being overweight may actually be of benefit. This phenomenon has been called the “obesity paradox.”

Our group from the departments of public health sciences and anesthesiology and perioperative medicine at Queen’s University investigated the relationship between body mass index (BMI, a commonly used ratio of weight to height) and outcomes after heart surgery. We analyzed a large database of health records of almost 80,000 patients having open coronary bypass surgery in Ontario over a 13-year period using data from ICES, a not-for-profit research institute in Ontario. We tracked five-year survival rates as well as complications occurring during the year after surgery.

We found that patients in the overweight and moderately obese categories made up two-thirds of all cardiac surgery patients. However, these patients actually had lower death rates and complications than patients in the normal weight, underweight and morbidly obese categories.

The highest risk of complications was seen at the extremes of BMI, meaning patients in the underweight and the morbidly obese categories. Such a relationship has also been found in other patient groups with different medical conditions or procedures.


Bar graph showing mortality rates for BMI ranging from underweight through morbidly obese. The underweight category has significantly higher mortality that the others, while the overweight and obese categories have the lowest.
Mortality rates following cardiac surgery by BMI. (Ana Johnson), Author provided

Economies of scale

In addition to the difference in complication rates, there are economic implications for these findings. We analyzed the financial costs of coronary bypass surgery and the medical care during the year following surgery in a group of over 53,000 patients over a 10-year period.

Not surprisingly, due to the disproportionate number of patients in these categories having heart surgery, overweight and obese patients accounted for the overall majority of health-care costs, a total of $1.4 billion (in 2014 Canadian dollars), compared to $788 million for the other BMI categories combined. However, the average cost of care per patient in the overweight and obese categories was substantially lower than in the normal weight, underweight and morbidly obese categories.

Weighing in on weight gain

This does not necessarily mean that weight gain should be recommended to reduce these risks. The scientific literature is consistent that obesity and lack of fitness are associated with cardiovascular disease, as well as many other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

However, once the need for surgery is determined, having excess body fat may provide increased energy reserves during a period of stress and healing that are not available to lower-weight patients. This advantage is lost in the case of extreme obesity, where the common presence of other related diseases and reduced mobility after surgery likely contribute to the increased complication rate.

The perils of frailty

On the other hand, we found that being underweight is associated with increased mortality in hospital patients and increased health costs. In fact, low BMI is more detrimental to the recovery from heart surgery than even extreme obesity. This may reflect the negative effects of frailty, which has been shown to adversely affect recovery from surgery.

A woman's feet standing on a scale that reads about 51 kilograms.
The higher mortality rates of heart surgery patients in the lowest BMI category may reflect the negative effects of frailty, which has been shown to adversely affect recovery from surgery. (Pixabay)


In addition to reduced body fat, patients in the underweight category typically have reduced muscle mass, which limits function and mobility even before surgery. That leaves them with little in reserve to resist the stress of major surgery and the prolonged recovery period afterwards.

Even when taking advanced age and other diseases into account, low BMI was independently associated with death and other complications after heart surgery. This suggests that patients who are frail might do better after surgery if — time permitting — they were offered an exercise and nutrition program before surgery.

What is normal anyway?

It’s also important to look at the BMI category that was considered to be the standard for comparison: patients in the so-called “normal” weight category. This is generally considered the optimal BMI and the target for most fitness strategies. However, in our study and others, patients in the normal weight category had worse outcomes than patients in the overweight and moderately obese categories.

Importantly, these results do not mean that fattening up the population in the normal weight band should become a public health goal.

First, as mentioned, patients who are overweight have a far higher risk of developing heart disease in the first place, and an ounce (or gram) of prevention is a much more effective health strategy than a pound (or kilogram) of cure. Improving the fitness of the population is one of the most important public health strategies for reducing heart disease and the need for heart surgery in the first place.

Second, it may well be that what is an optimal BMI in other situations should not be considered optimal for recovery from surgery, and so it would make sense to define a “normal” BMI according to the specific situation. In this sense, the obesity paradox might not be a paradox at all.

This article was also co-authored by Dr. Brian Milne, professor emeritus, anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, Queen’s University.The Conversation


Ana Johnson, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, Queen's University and Joel Parlow, Professor, Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in the health sciences

The Faculty of Health Sciences has launched a new committee, fund, and office to pursue EDI initiatives. 

Photograph of virtual launch event.
Dean Jane Philpott speaking at the virtual launch event for a series of EDI initiatives in the faculty.

Across Queen’s, faculties are making efforts to ensure that the university is creating an equitable and inclusive environment for all people. During a virtual event on Thursday evening, Jane Philpott, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), announced a series of initiatives on this front that include the formation of the Dean’s Action Table on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (DAT-EDI), the opening of the FHS Office of EDI, and the creation of the FHS EDI Fund.

“We are experiencing a period of unprecedented awareness about racism and other forms of oppression. Our approach to addressing these matters must be more than notional. We need action. We need to meaningfully demonstrate our commitment to the principles of EDI in our workplace as well as our teaching, research, and care,” Dean Philpott wrote in a blog post announcing the initiatives. “So we are taking these steps now in order to live up to the challenge of the moment and make our faculty stronger going forward.”

The Dean’s action table will have 150 volunteers from the faculty, who will be divided between an executive committee and seven working groups. Each working group will address a specific theme, such as admissions, curriculum, and professional development. And they will develop recommendations that will lead to the creation of the EDI Strategic Plan for FHS.

Aquila Akingbade, a third-year medical student, is a member of the action table, and he was on hand Thursday evening to describe why he believes these initiatives are important for students.

"As a future physician I am very grateful to be part of this profession and personally I can’t wait to have a positive impact on the lives of my patients, however minimal that is. My peers also echo my sentiments. However, we can only achieve our fullest potential as learners and faculty in equitable and diverse environments. As such to me, equity, diversity, inclusion is about inviting, listening and consulting members of a community when decisions are being made about them," said Akingbade.

The new FHS EDI Fund will provide financial support for the faculty’s initiatives, including recruitment and support for learners from under-represented groups. The inaugural gift for the fund comes from the Carrick Family, who have pledged $200,000 over the next two years. Members of the Carrick Family announced the gift at the virtual launch event.

The new Office of EDI in FHS will also help guide the faculty’s efforts to become more equitable for all students, staff, and faculty. Joining the new office will be former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who will be serving in the role of EDI Senior Advisor. Wendy Phillips, an Elder in the Queen’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives, will also be working in the FHS Office of EDI as an Elder in Residence. Both Caesar-Chavannes and Phillips were on hand Thursday to speak about their vision and goals for the new office.

These new FHS initiatives follow a July announcement that 10 seats in each class of the School of Medicine would now be reserved for Black and Indigenous students through the QuARMS pathway.

These initiatives are also part of the university’s broader commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Over the summer, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane led Queen’s in signing the Queen’s University Administration’s Declaration of Commitment to Address Systemic Racism. Also signed by senior leaders from across the university, this declaration will guide Queen’s work to create a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive community.

Learn more about the FHS EDI initiatives on the FHS website.

Canadian health research leaders earn fellowship honours

Queen’s researchers Janet Dancey, Marcia Finlayson, and Graeme Smith have been inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Fellowship
Queen’s researchers Janet Dancey, Marcia Finlayson, and Graeme Smith have been inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Fellowship, one of the highest honours for health sciences researchers in Canada.

Queen’s University researchers Janet Dancey, Marcia Finlayson, and Graeme Smith have been inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Fellowship, one of Canada’s premier academic honours.

Three of Canada’s top-ranked health and biomedical scientists, the new fellows are working to make a positive impact on the urgent health concerns of Canadians. They join the ranks of other Queen’s CAHS Fellows, including Michael Green, Robert Ross, Anne Croy, Susan Cole, Roger Deeley, Stephen Archer, Jacalyn Duffin, John Rudan, Chris Simpson, Elizabeth Eisenhauer, and others.

“Election to the CAHS is one of the highest honours for health sciences researchers in Canada,” says Dr. Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “The contributions of Drs. Dancey, Finlayson, and Smith have  widespread impact both in Canada and internationally, and as a community of scholars, the Academy will benefit greatly from their experience and expertise.”

Dr. Dancey (Oncology) is an international leader in cancer clinical trials of experimental therapeutics, particularly trials of targeted therapies with biomarkers, as well as novel trials for rare cancer patients. As director of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), Canada’s largest cancer trial network located at Queen’s, she has worked to advance its research strategy and expand its portfolio of trials evaluating targeted agents, immunotherapy and the application of genomics. As a professor in the Department of Oncology at Queen’s University, she has special expertise encompassing new anti-cancer drug development, linking drug and biomarker development, and associated clinical trials methodology.

Dr. Finlayson (School of Rehabilitation Therapy) is an occupational therapist and internationally recognized multiple sclerosis rehabilitation researcher. The overarching goal of her work is to improve care and quality of life outcomes for people with multiple sclerosis, particularly as they age. Through the use of mixed methods, interdisciplinary collaboration, and engagement with national and international MS organizations, Finlayson has drawn attention to the day-to-day impact of living with MS and identified effective strategies that enable people affected by this disease to exert choice and control over their everyday lives. Dr. Finlayson is Vice-Dean of Health Sciences and Director of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University.

Dr. Smith (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) is an internationally recognized clinician scientist and head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Queen’s University. Dr. Smith established the Academic Council at the Society for Obstetricians & Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) to oversee educational activities ranging from medical students to residents to practicing clinicians. He has demonstrated a career long commitment to trainee research education ranging from his own basic science graduate trainees, establishing the Royal College Clinician Investigator Program at Queen’s University, running the Introduction to Research course for all first year residents and establishing mentorship recognition programs in the SOGC and his department.

The CAHS is one of Canada’s national academies, along with the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. These academies inform government and the public on issues critical to health care and health improvement.

For more information on the CAHS, visit the website.

Making sense of COVID-19 tests and terminology

Drawing of a medical professional administering a COVID-19 test

During the COVID-19 pandemic, words and phrases that have typically been limited to epidemiologists and public health professionals have entered the public sphere. Although we’ve rapidly accepted epidemiology-based news, the public hasn’t been given the chance to fully absorb what all these terms really mean.

As with all disease tests, a false positive result on a COVID-19 test can cause undue stress on individuals as they try to navigate their diagnosis, take days off work and isolate from family. One high-profile example was Ohio Governor Mike DeWine whose false positive result led him to cancel a meeting with President Donald Trump.

False negative test results are even more dangerous, as people may think it is safe and appropriate for them to engage in social activities. Of course, factors such as the type of test, whether the individual had symptoms before being tested and the timing of the test can also impact how well the test predicts whether someone is infected.

Sensitivity and specificity are two extremely important scientific concepts for understanding the results of COVID-19 tests.

In the epidemiological context, sensitivity is the proportion of true positives that are correctly identified. If 100 people have a disease, and the test identifies 90 of these people as having the disease, the sensitivity of the test is 90 per cent.

A lab technician handles a specimen that has tested positive for COVID-19
A lab technician handles a specimen that has tested positive for COVID-19. (Unsplash/Prasesh Shiwakoti)

Specificity is the ability of a test to correctly identify those without the disease. If 100 people don’t have the disease, and the test correctly identifies 90 people as disease-free, the test has a specificity of 90 per cent.

This simple table helps outline how sensitivity and specificity are calculated when the prevalence — the percentage of the population that actually has the disease — is 25 per cent (totals in bold):

Table showing number of positive and negative tests in rows, and number or disease cases (total 25,000) and disease-free cases (total 75,000) in columns, along with the sensitivity of 80 per cent and the specificity of 90 per cent.
Sensitivity and specificity at 25 per cent disease prevalence. (Priyanka Gogna), Author provided


A test sensitivity of 80 per cent can seem great for a newly released test (like for the made-up case numbers I reported above).

Predictive value

But these numbers don’t convey the whole message. The usefulness of a test in a population is not determined by its sensitivity and specificity. When we use sensitivity and specificity, we are figuring out how well a test works when we already know which people do, and don’t, have the disease.

But the true value of a test in a real-world setting comes from its ability to correctly predict who is infected and who is not. This makes sense because in a real-world setting, we don’t know who truly has the disease — we rely on the test itself to tell us. We use the positive predictive value and negative predictive value of a test to summarize that test’s predictive ability.

A health-care worker prepares a swab at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic. (Unsplash/Mufid Majnun)

To drive the point home, think about this: in a population in which no one has the disease, even a test that is terrible at detecting anyone with the disease will appear to work great. It will “correctly” identify most people as not having the disease. This has more to do with how many people have the disease in a population (prevalence) rather than how well the test works.

Using the same numbers as above, we can estimate the positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV), but this time we focus on the row totals (in bold).

The PPV is calculated as the number of true positives divided by the total number of people identified as positive by the test.

Table showing number of positive and negative tests in rows, and columns with numbers of disease cases, disease-free cases, totals and PPV of 73 per cent and NPV of 93 per cent.
Positive and negative predictive value at 25 per cent disease prevalence. (Priyanka Gogna), Author provided


The PPV is interpreted as the probability that someone that has tested positive actually has the disease. The NPV is the probability that someone that tested negative does not have the disease. Although sensitivity and specificity do not change as the proportion of diseased individuals changes in a population, the PPV and NPV are heavily dependent on the prevalence.

Let’s see what happens when we redraw our disease table when the population prevalence sits at one per cent instead of 25 per cent (much closer to the true prevalence of COVID-19 in Canada).

Table showing numbers of positive and negative test results in rows, and disease cases, disease-free cases and totals in columns, along with values for sensitivity (80 per cent), specificity (90 per cent), PPV (seven per cent) and NPV (99.8 per cent)
Sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV at one per cent disease prevalence. (Priyanka Gogna), Author provided


So, when the disease has low prevalence, the PPV of the test can be very low. This means that the probability that someone that tested positive actually has COVID-19 is low. Of course, depending on the sensitivity, specificity and the prevalence in the population, the reverse can be true as well: someone that tested negative might not truly be disease-free.

False positive and false negative tests in real life

What does this mean as mass testing begins for COVID-19? At the very least it means the public should have clear information about the implications of false positives. All individuals should be aware of the possibility of a false positive or false negative test, especially as we move to a heavier reliance on testing this fall to inform our actions and decisions. As we can see using some simple tables and math above, the PPV and NPV can be limiting even in the face of a “good” test with high sensitivity and specificity.

Without adequate understanding of the science behind testing and why false positives and false negatives happen, we might drive the public to further mistrust — and even question the usefulness — of public health and testing. Knowledge is power in this pandemic.The Conversation


Priyanka Gogna, PhD Candidate, Epidemiology, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Start writing for The Conversation Canada

Scott White, Editor-in-Chief of The Conversation Canada, to host two online, interactive workshops for faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows on Sept. 17 and 21.

The importance of fact-based, expert commentary in the news has never been more apparent. The public is seeking informed information on issues important to them, particularly as the world gets accustomed to the new normal of living in a global pandemic.  

For researchers looking for an opportunity to reach the public and mobilize their knowledge, The Conversation is an ideal platform. It combines academic rigour with journalistic flair by pairing academic experts with experienced journalists to write informed content that can be repurposed by media outlets worldwide.

Global Reach

Founded in Australia in 2011, the online news platform has 11 national or regional editions with more than 112,000 academics from 2,065 institutions as registered authors whose articles attract 42 million readers monthly worldwide. The Conversation’s Creative Commons Licensing has meant that over 22,000 news outlets around the world have shared and repurposed content.

As a founding member of The Conversation Canada, over the last three years the Queen’s research community has embraced the platform as a unique tool for sharing their research expertise and engaging with the media. More than 160 Queen’s researchers have published 270 articles that have received an impressive audience of over 4.3 million via The Conversation Canada’s website. Through the platform’s Creative Commons Licensing and newswire access, dozens of major media outlets, including Maclean’sThe National PostTIME, and The Washington Post, to name a few, have republished these pieces.

For Queen’s researchers interested in learning more about the platform, University Relations and the School of Graduate Studies will host two interactive, online workshops in September. The workshops will explore the changing media landscape in Canada, why researchers should write for The Conversation, and how to develop the perfect pitch. 

Online Workshops

Faculty are invited to attend the workshop on Thursday, Sept. 17 from 10-11:30 am. Interested graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are asked to register for a specially designed workshop on Monday, Sept. 21 from 10-11:30 am that will also count towards the SGS Expanding Horizons Certificate in Professional Development. Scott White, Editor-in-Chief of The Conversation Canada, and members of his editorial team will host both workshops over Zoom. Participants are asked to bring an idea to pitch to the workshop to receive real-time editorial feedback from the team.

In order to facilitate a collaborative workshop, spaces will be limited. Please visit the Research@Queen’s website to register.

It’s time to join The Conversation

Queen’s is looking to add to its roster of authors taking part in The Conversation Canada. Faculty and graduate students interested in learning more about the platform and research promotion are encouraged to register for the September workshops or contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, for more information.

Beyond long-term care

Naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs, are unplanned communities that have a high proportion of older residents, and may be critical to finding housing solutions for aging Canadians.

Members of the Oasis Senior Supportive Living Program pole walking in their community.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has shown Canadians that we need to think differently about how we support older adults. The media and all levels of government have focused heavily on long-term care, and rightly so. However, the vast majority of older adults live at home and plan to remain there for as long as possible.

In a July 2020 Home Care Ontario survey of older adults, 93 per cent of the 1,000 respondents indicated their desire to stay in their own home. No one identified long-term care as part of their future housing plans. Simply put, although necessary for some, long-term care is not where most people choose to live.

It had been clear well before the pandemic that long-term care is costly and woefully inadequate to meet the needs of Canada’s aging population. It is crucial to expand the conversation to consider what other housing solutions exist and how they can be implemented.

Alternative housing models

Essential to the success and acceptability of any housing alternative is the need for older adults to maintain a sense of autonomy and independence, be actively engaged in decisions affecting themselves and their community and have the opportunity to build social networks that can ultimately support one another.

Villages and co-housing are two examples of how we can think differently. In the village model found in the United States, older adults living in a neighbourhood of single dwelling homes come together as a group to organize paid and volunteer services.

Originating in Europe, co-housing brings together younger and older adults in clusters of homes or apartments built around shared spaces. Members work together to manage common spaces and support each other through group activities such as communal dining.

Naturally occurring retirement communities

Naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) offer a third example with enormous potential. Unlike the village or co-housing models, NORCs are unplanned communities that have a high proportion of older residents.

For example, individuals in a specific neighbourhood may have aged together as a community, or an apartment building in a walkable neighbourhood may attract older adults moving from single family homes. On their own, NORCs are simply a way to describe a community’s demographic profile, however, they can be seen as a critical piece of the solution.

Researchers have referred to NORCs as “untapped resources to enable optimal aging at home” with the potential to build social networks and integrate supportive community programs. Studies have demonstrated the benefit of these communities to building social networks and increasing participation in daily activities. There are well documented examples of NORCs with social support programs in New York and other U.S. states. To date, there has been very little focus on NORCs in Canada and only a handful of documented examples.

Side-by-side maps showing significantly higher population of adults ages 55 years and older in 2016 compared to 2006
Maps of percentages of all older adults who are aged 55 years and older by dissemination areas in all of Ontario. (Paul Nguyen), Author provided

NORCs in Ontario

We examined the make-up of Ontario neighbourhoods using Statistics Canada’s dissemination areas — which are small, stable geographical areas with 400-700 inhabitants — to identify the prevalence of NORCs in the province.

Older adults at a long table working on art projects.
Social programming at one of the Oasis expansion sites. Author provided

We found the proportion of neighbourhoods with at least 40 per cent older adults (age 55 and older) dramatically increased from 8.7 per cent in 2006 to 20.1 per cent in 2016. Although the prevalence of NORCs has increased overall, NORCs vary in frequency across the province. In Central Ontario, an incredible 37 per cent of neighbourhoods are considered NORCs, whereas in the highly populated Golden Horseshoe area capping the western end of Lake Ontario, NORCs make up 14 per cent of neighbourhoods.

These findings provide a literal and figurative map on which we can plan a shift in the way we support older adults: reorienting services to focus on building socially connected NORCs, creating resource hubs in NORCs and developing NORCs as age-friendly communities. Given the anticipated growth of the older adult population over the next decade we can expect the number of NORCs to continue to increase.

A NORC Oasis

The Oasis Senior Supportive Living program is one Canadian example of how NORCs can be leveraged to bring supports to older adults. Oasis was created by older adults in one apartment building in Kingston, Ont., a decade ago and, together with a community board of directors and on-site Oasis co-ordinator, they run community activities, including physical and social activities and congregate dining in a common space donated by the building’s landlord.

Preliminary results show that Oasis increases physical activity levels and decreases social isolation, as well as leads to a decrease in use of the health-care system, particularly home-care services. Over the past two years, through a partnership between the Oasis members and board of directors, Queen’s University, and McMaster and Western universities, we have spread Oasis to six new NORCs in Ontario.

As the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions appear to be a collective reality for the near future, it is essential that we explore how to support older adults in their communities. NORCs exist, we can easily identify them and it is now time to capitalize on these as a real solution by considering NORCS as an option for how we support older adults and providing resources to strengthen existing and potential NORCs.The Conversation


Catherine Donnelly, Associate Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University; Paul Nguyen, Senior Analyst, ICES, Queen's University; Simone Parniak, Research Project Manager, Queen's University, and Vincent DePaul, Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Four professors receive one of the highest Canadian academic honours

Royal Society of Canada elects two Queen’s University researchers as Fellows, and two to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Four Queen’s University researchers have been elected to the Royal Society of Canada, which is one of the highest recognitions for Canadian academics in the arts, humanities, and the social and natural sciences. Nancy van Deusen, and Cathleen Crudden were elected to the Fellowship of the academy, while Amy Latimer-Cheung and Awet Weldemichael were named members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

The newest Fellows from Queen’s have a wide range of research interests including women and gender history, and organic chemistry.

The newest members of the College of Scholars from Queen’s have done exemplary research in the promotion of physical activity and history of colonialism and national movements in Africa and Southeast Asia,

The Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada comprises more than 2,000 Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists, peer-elected as the best in their field. These are distinguished academics from all branches of learning who have made contributions in the arts, the humanities and the sciences, as well as in Canadian public life.

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership.

Queen’s is proud to be home to over 90 members of the Fellowship and 11 members of the College of the Royal Society of Canada.

“Queen’s is renowned for excellence in research and teaching, in part thanks to the contributions of faculty members like these,” says Patrick Deane, Queen's Principal and Vice-Chancellor.  “Recognized by their peers, this honour reflects outstanding leadership in research and the significant contributions they have made to their respective disciplines.”

The four Queen’s scholars are:

Nancy Van DeusenNancy van Deusen’s (History) research in women and gender history, the histories of African and Indigenous slavery, and early modern Catholicism have earned her a place as one of the most distinguished colonial Latin Americanists in North America today. Her meticulous research and thought-provoking analyses have led to innovations in the classroom and in scholarship, providing a more nuanced portrayal of previously under-represented groups.

Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry) has made lasting contributions to organic chemistry and materials science. She has employed the principles of organometallic chemistry to develop catalytic transformations of importance to pharmaceutical research and to develop novel techniques for the formation of organic monolayers on metal surfaces. The latter work has resulted in the most robust organic monolayers to date, high stability nanoparticles and novel metal nanoclusters. 

Amy Latimer-Cheung (Kinesiology and Health) is acclaimed for her research which encourages people to be more physically active. She is particularly interested in increasing participation among people with a disability by creating positive activity experiences. A direct translation of her research into practice, Dr. Latimer-Cheung is the Executive Co-Director of Revved Up, an exercise program for people with a disability.

Awet Weldemichael  (History) is an internationally sought-after speaker in academia and media. His research focuses on colonialism, decolonization, revolutions, nationalist movements, peace, conflict and security studies relevant to Africa and Southeast Asia, specifically, modern and contemporary Horn of Africa and island Southeast Asia. His recent award-winning book, Piracy in Somalia, examines the root causes, dynamics and consequences of piracy in Somalia.

The four Queen’s researchers will be inducted at the Royal Society of Canada's annual Celebration of Excellence and Engagement in November. For more information, visit the Royal Society of Canada website.


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